Argentine governor dies of shots to head

AP News
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Posted: Jan 01, 2012 11:48 AM
Argentine governor dies of shots to head

The ruling party governor of a western Argentine province was killed early Sunday of gunshots to the head, and his wife was being questioned by police.

The .38-caliber revolver was fired as Rio Negro Gov. Carlos Soria and his wife Susana were in their bedroom after spending New Year's Eve at their home in General Roca, authorities said. Emergency personnel found him bleeding in bed and took him alive to the local hospital, where he was declared dead just before 5 a.m., local media reported.

The governor's spokesman, Julian Goinhex confirmed the death but gave no further details about what happened to the 62-year-old Soria.

Soria led the province's Peronist Justicialist Party and won election by a wide margin in October. He was inaugurated on Dec. 10 as part of the nation's ruling Front for Victory, displacing the Radical Party that had long controlled the province.

Soria will be succeeded by his vice-governor, Alberto Weretilneck. In an interview with Radio 10, Weretilneck called it a domestic accident and said Soria and his wife were alone at the time.

Susana Freydoz was being questioned by police Sunday to determine whether the shots were fired by accident or intentionally, local media reported.

Soria's son Martin, who replaced him as mayor of General Roca, made no immediate statement about his father's death. The couple also had three other children: German, Carlos and Emilia.

Just before midnight, Soria had given an interview to a local radio station, expressing confidence that 2012 would be a great year and that he was looking forward to the challenge of bringing a new administration to the province, which is quickly developing its mineral and oil wealth through foreign investments. Its land, too, is in huge demand, from developments around Andean ski resorts to farmland.

Chinese companies have reactivated a major iron ore mine and are investing more than $1 billion to irrigate land to provide grains and dairy products for Chinese consumers. The province has 1,400 operations that manage hundreds of thousands of sheep, cows and goats.

"I'm not afraid of any challenge. This isn't very difficult, although it is complex. The province belongs to everyone, and we need to take care of it and not seek personal gain from it," the late governor said.

While Soria was a member of the governing party inspired by Peron, he clashed in the past with President Cristina Fernandez. According to the newspaper Clarin, Fernandez accused him in 2002 of spying on her husband, Nestor Kirchner, while heading the intelligence ministry for Kirchner's predecessor, President Eduardo Duhalde. They put that rift behind them as Soria spent eight years as mayor of his hometown, repeatedly challenging the Radicals until he ended their 28-year hold on the province last year.

Earlier, Soria had led a congressional commission investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires and as regional security minister for Buenos Aires, oversaw a hunt for bodies of victims of the country's 1976-1983 dictatorship. He also made public a stash of documents about the dirty war that had been hidden for years by police.

Soria was born in 1949 to a fervent follower of Gen. Juan Domingo Peron who was twice imprisoned after the president was overthrown in a coup in 1955, according to his 2011 official campaign biography. Soria upheld that heritage as a lifelong activist in Peronist political movements, earning a law degree in 1973 at the University of Buenos Aires and serving in many provincial and congressional positions.

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Michael Warren can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/mwarrenap

(This version CORRECTS spelling of wife's surname. )